Turkey to the Caspian Sea

I found Turkey irresistibly charming. It was difficult to leave, spring evolved into summer. The poppies bloomed red blossoms across the meadow. I finally departed late July.

I caught rides in semi’s and local vehicles to Central Anatolia. The fairy chimneys of Cappadocia. There are many uninhabited caves, and many inhabited ones also. The soft stone allows for carving and the local residents have crafted exquisite homes within it. I had the luck of meeting a local resident who’s grandfather constructed his cave home. It was an artisanal hand sculpted masterpiece, spiral stone stairs twisting up to a loft. All designed perfectly inside a beehive shaped piece of white basalt. The semi arid region is blessed with sweet water springs. Just below the seemingly parched ivory stone was a valley spring which quenched the thirst of the the fauna and the local residents. I stayed in a tent in this area for a bit too long. My visa was expiring in 2 days.

I continued north. Turkish people are very kind and helpful, finding rides was usually not difficult. Although, sometimes I was refused rides because of my dog, a young ebony pup I acquired in Olympus. I had pets several times while traveling. Unfortunately, It is difficult for them when you are constantly moving. She got car sick as well, not very polite when you are hitchhiking.

I arrived in the Black Sea. The fields of almond trees almost ready for harvest were opening in fragrant white petals. I slept in the mountain. It was a pristine beauty so fresh and full of foliage. There were mountain springs sweet as honey. Water is always an issue. You cannot survive without it. It is heavy. Finding fresh water sources are a blessing. Especially in this world of increasing pollution. Learning how to find it is an art. Ive drank many types of water, Ive also been sick because of it many times. Often there is no store nearby to buy water so it is necessary to rely on local sources. Many times as I traveled I would watch with a sharp eye for water sources from the vehicle. It is necessary to find a suitable place to sleep and a source of water before sundown. I don’t like being in the vehicle at night. At the sight of a small stream or a wet rock I would ask the driver to stop.

I carried many of my paintings with me. I made a traveling outdoor exhibition and placed them in trees. Whoever my audience would be, or would not be, was left to fate.

On the coast I found a restaurant owner who was interested in my dog. His had recently died and his son Mohammed loved dogs. I handed my companion over to Mohammed.

When I reached the border, my visa had long expired. Either pay a heavy fine or get a red stamp, which meant that I couldn’t return for five years. At first I refused the large fine. I crossed the border with my red stamp. But only a few meters after, I turned back, paid the fine and cancelled the red stamp. Something told me I would need to return.

Batumi, to Borjomi, the land of sulfur springs. The Georgian residents came here to heal ailments with the egg scented water. Beneficial for the stomach and the kidneys. I camped just behind the national park, a quiet site separate from the tourist crowds with a hot spring pool rarely visited by the masses. A week passed, maybe two.

Georgia is the land of knights, rich in culture and home to an intriguing alphabet. I love Georgian calligraphy. They say the Georgian people are related to the Basque in Spain. I found my way to Tbilisi on marshrukas, Georgian minibuses. I continued north planning to cross the border to Russia in a leisurely manner. I found the small town of Pasanauri on the map. Many times as I traveled I would choose small, seemingly insignificant hamlets, based merely on their names.

Pasanauri is the location where the black and white rivers merge. There was a tragic love tale to accompany these rivers and their colors, I have long forgotten the details. I stayed there one month.

I returned to Tbilisi, I met friends and stayed in a small village outside of the city another duration of time. I met an impressive girl from Uganda, Laureene Ndagire. She had been living in Georgia one year and wanted to travel to Iran. We decided to go go to Azerbaijan together.

From Baku I heard there were boats that could sail across the Caspian sea, to Kazakhstan. Although a very large country, it was neighbor to my destination, China. We hitchhiked most of the way to Sheki, an ancient city with rich artisanal tradition and historic sites. We continued to the coast. Maybe it was Alat, maybe it was another place, the names of Cities become entwined in my mind.

She continued to Iran and I returned north. Ive always been interested in the fire worshipping Persian religion, Zoroastrianism. The town of Khinalug was a remote village, difficult to reach high in the winding mountains. It was an ancient center of the mystic religion. I stayed with a local family there and had the pleasure of attending a local marriage ceremony. Unique about this matrimony was that musicians would compete, the winner of the completion could choose his future bride. They played the kamancha and saz with passion for their future spouse.

I reached Baku and began searching for a ship. I had developed an illness along the way. An asthmatic cough accompanied with blood. Without being a part of the national healthcare system seeing a doctor was difficult and required many registrations. I treated my self with plants. I always carried a bag of herbal medicines and acupuncture needles.

I thought about the ship, 5-7 day crossing the Caspian. It didn’t seem possible. A zephyr was pulling me back. I had always dreamed of investigating the shamanic traditions of South America.

But what about China?

I sat contemplating and staring at the vast Caspian.

I took the train back west, Baku to Tbilisi.

The story strays and the plot twists.

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